The Presidential Debates Not!
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
The two establishment candidates for president of the United States of America will present joint speeches starting September 30, 2004. These are being referred to as 'debates,' but they are not that at all. In a true debate, the parties present their propositions and then confront one another with questions. A true debate is spontaneous, unscripted. The interest and excitement of watching a debate is not knowing how it will progress and turn out.
The joint shows that will be presented by the establishment presidential campaigns are no debates at all. The Democratic and Republican candidates and campaign chiefs have decided the format and contents beforehand: who will participate, what the topics will be, who will be asking the questions. The private commission hosting the events, financed by corporations, is a tool of the campaigns, not an independent organization.
Prior presidential debates were not like that. When Kennedy and Nixon debated in 1960, that was a true, unscripted, confrontation. When the League of Women Voters was hosting the debates, this was an independent organization controlling the format. But then the two establishment parties decided it was in their interest to control the whole process.
The Democratic and Republican parties have created what economists call a 'duopoly,' a domination of the campaigns by two organizations. They receive almost all the government subsidy for political campaigns. They are excluding non-establishment parties, such as the Libertarian and Green parties, from the non-debates, even though these parties are on the ballot in most states. They have conspired, breathed and worked together, to fool the public and the media into thinking there will be debates, when the reality is that this is just a political show.
The establishment candidates are holding these non-debates only because there is a large public demand to have them. Candidates' debates is a strong tradition, and real debates are being held by political candidates throughout the world. U.S. voters want a debate among the candidates for president. It would look bad for the establishment candidates if they refused to have debates.
But the establishment candidates and their campaign chiefs know that politicians can fool most of the people most of the time. They now meet the demand for debates by providing the illusion of debates. The major mass media are parties to this illusion, because they are not going to report that these are fake debates. These will be debates in form, not in substance.
True debates require the following conditions:
Instead, in the non-debates of 2004, the reporters will be asking the questions. The reporters and questions have been screened, so there will be no embarrassing surprises. The pseudo-debaters will then respond to the questions with their pre-programmed scripts that fit the time limits. Most of the public will think that they are watching a debate rather than scripted joint speeches.
- They are hosted by a neutral, independent organization, not controlled by the parties.
- The debate is open to all candidates who are on the ballots in most states.
- After initial speeches by the candidates, the debaters respond to one another. The moderators do not ask questions, but merely facilitate orderly responses by calling on those who wish to respond to do so. The questions are asked by the debaters, not the moderators or reporters.
These pseudo-debates may have some interest, and the candidates will have different positions on issues. But there will be no true confrontation and challenges, as in a real debate. We will see if any newspapers, television or radio reporters will practice real journalism and report on the reality of the commission and pre-programming, telling us that things are not what they appear to be. Will they report on reality or appearance? Alas, most will report the appearance.
As an economist, I see my main task as understanding and explaining the reality beneath the superficial appearance of issues and events. The task of a true economist is to keep it real. What distinguishes a sophisticated from a naive viewer is the realization that things are not what they appear to be. So you who watch the pseudo-debates should at least have a skeptical eye, knowing that these are illusionary events. And that being the case, what does that tell you about their candidacies and the whole political process?
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2004 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Across the street from the fake September 30 debate will be a genuine American debate between other presidential candidates! Click here to find out more.
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